Comfort food is where it’s at right now. If it’s any indication, Google searches for comfort food spiked in 2017 and the U.S. and Canada ranked #2 and #3 in the world respectively for queries on cozy favourites like pasta, Yorkshire pudding, apple crisp and Mac & Cheese. Here in Canada, British Columbia takes the lead with the highest interest in comfort food followed by Alberta and Ontario, likely a gut reaction to West Coast uber-healthy living. It happens…there are days when you just can’t fight the cravings for warm carbs or luxurious melted cheese. You can squeeze into your yoga pants tomorrow.
Whatever the reason, they’re on to something. The mid-January struggle to stick to a healthy or healthier routine is in full force and the evil gargoyle on my shoulder is giving me a wink and a nudge closer to the dark side. And I’m giving in, at least temporarily anyway, listening to the siren call of comforting, nurturing, feel-good dishes. The key though, is balance and moderation. In between the carefully portioned weekday meals and sensible salads that have been my routine for a while, I’ve always felt it’s important to squeeze in a little treat and at this time of year it’s going to be something carb heavy for me. Cheat Day is definitely still a thing but sometimes I tend to go overboard and I find having a small indulgence once in a while helps stay on track, avoiding negative feelings from being too restrictive with my diet.
My comfort food fallbacks are usually pasta, cheese, maybe a rich bowl of spicy chili, or a sweet cake-y loaf. But I think one of the best comfort food memories I have is with this bread pudding. It was originally developed by Cooking Light magazine and it’s worth having as a standby dessert – super easy to make and as it happens, low cal and low fat. Thank you, Cooking Light!
Years ago, when my partner Jason and I first started dating, I remember I was having a bad day at the office and stressing about something or other which I’m sure was entirely inconsequential at the time. He made this for me and after one bite, my worries vanished – it’s that good! Side note: that was the first time I knew this guy was a keeper, and this week we celebrated 13 years together.
I haven’t had this bread pudding since then and it’s every bit as delicious as I remember it. This recipe gets all the points with a perfect combination of textures…soft and sweet on the inside with plump, slightly boozy raisins; and a light, crunchy exterior. The caramel whiskey sauce is heavenly too.
TIP: Any leftovers can be saved to pour over ice cream, or sliced apples and pears.
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 whole baguette, cut into 1-inch slices
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup Irish whiskey
- 1 ¾ cups 1% low-fat milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 12-ounce can evaporated skim milk
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Cooking spray
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Caramel Whiskey Sauce
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (about ¼ cup)
- ¼ cup Irish whiskey
- ¼ cup 1% low-fat milk
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Brush melted butter on one side of baguette slices and place buttered side up on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cut bread into ½-inch cubes and set aside
- Combine raisins and whiskey in a small bowl, cover and let stand for 10 minutes until soft (do not drain)
- Combine 1% milk and next four ingredients (milk through eggs) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add bread cubes and raisin mixture, pressing gently to moisten. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Spook break mixture into a 13×9 baking dish coated with cooking spray.
- Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, sprinkle evenly over the pudding.
- Bake at 350° F for 35 minutes or until completely set.
- Serve warm with a drizzle of the Caramel Whiskey Sauce
Caramel Whiskey Sauce
- Combine sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until sugar dissolves stirring constantly
- Cook an additional 15 minutes or until golden (do not stir). Remove from heat.
- Carefully add butter and cream cheese, stirring constantly with a small whisk. The mixture will be very hot and bubble vigorously.
- Cool slightly and stir in whiskey and milk.